What Is It and Where Did It All Begin?
"Masonry is an art, useful and extensive, which comprehends within its circle every branch of useful knowledge and learning, and stamps an indelible mark of preeminence on its genuine professors, which neither chance, power, nor fortune can bestow."
"Freemasonry is a science of symbols, in which, by their proper study, a search is instituted after truth, that truth consisting in the knowledge of the divine and human nature of God and the human Soul."
Albert G. MacKey
"The Society or Fraternity of Freemasons is more in the nature of a system of Philosophy or of moral and social virtues taught by symbols, allegories, and lectures based upon fundamental truths, the observance of which tends to promote stability of character, conservatism, morality and good citizenship."
Henry W. Coil, Sr.
What is Freemasonry
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies, whose members are concerned with moral and spiritual values. They are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemason’s customs and tools as allegorical guides. The essential qualification for admission is a belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute. Although it has a religious basis Freemasonry is neither a religion in itself nor a substitute for religion. It expects its members to follow their own faith. It has no theology or dogma and by forbidding the discussion of religion at its meetings prevents the development of any dogma. Nor is there a separate Masonic god. The use of honorifics, such as the Great Architect, is simply to enable men of different faiths to meet together, offer prayers and address their God without differences of religion obtruding. To the Christian the Great Architect is his God; to the Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim etc. he is the God of his particular religion.
Freemasonry is not a secret society. Its aims, principles, constitutions and rules are available to the public and its members are at perfect liberty to acknowledge their membership. The only secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition.
A Freemason is taught that his prime duties are to his God, to the laws of the country in which he lives and works, and to his family. Any attempt to use his membership to promote his own or anyone else’s business, professional or personal interests, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully, is contrary to the conditions on which he seeks admission.
By following the three Great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth a Freemason hopes to show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others; to practice charity within the community as a whole both by charitable giving and voluntary efforts; and to strive to attain truth and high moral standards in his own life.
"Masonic labor is purely a labor of love. He who seeks to draw Masonic wages in gold and silver will be disappointed. The wages of a Mason are earned and paid in their dealings with one another; sympathy that begets sympathy, kindness begets kindness, helpfulness begets helpfulness, and these are the wages of a Mason."
"Freemasonry teaches not merely temperance, fortitude, prudence, justice, brotherly love, relief, and truth, but liberty, equality, and fraternity, and it denounces ignorance, superstition, bigotry, lust tyranny and despotism"
"So far as I am acquainted with the principles and doctrines of Freemasonry, I conceive it to be founded in benevolence and to be exercised only for the good of mankind. Freemasonry is founded on the immutable laws of Truth and Justice and its grand object is to promote the happiness of the human race."
When did it all begin?
The History of Freemasonry
No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons guild during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the Fraternity’s rituals come from this era.
The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, written in approximately 1390 (which was itself a copy of an earlier, now lost work). In 1717, four Lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the Fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the Fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere in Massachusetts.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.
During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social “safety net”. The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving $2.6 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
Millions of Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
Kevin Main at Allen Public Library Presents
The History of Freemasonry
Kevin K. Main takes us back to a time during the Middle Ages where organized lodges for operative masons served as trade guilds and where the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717 is the official start of current Freemasonry.
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